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Giro finale
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Cyclo-Cross World Cup #7 - CDM

Zolder, Belgium, December 26, 2008

World Cup kicks off holiday 'cross-fest

By Peter Hymas

Sven Nys leads the World Cup
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The seventh round of the Cyclo-Cross World Cup takes place this Friday on the grounds of the Circuit Zolder motor racing track in Heusden-Zolder, Belgium, site of the Belgian Formula One Grand Prix on 10 occasions in the 1970s and 1980s and also the location of Mario Cipollini's 2002 road world championship. This round of the World Cup will see the Elite men compete for the seventh time, Elite women for the sixth time, while the U23 and Junior men race for only the third time. Friday's World Cup also kicks off an intense block of post-Christmas 'cross racing in Belgium which offers eight races in the ten-day span from December 26 to January 4.

Sven Nys, leader of both the World Cup and UCI cyclo-cross rankings, doesn't need to score a single point to maintain his World Cup lead over Bart Wellens going into the eighth round in Roubaix, France. The ever-consistent Nys, however, will undoubtedly be looking to please a partisan Belgian crowd and extend his 81 point lead by trying to attain his third World Cup victory this season. Wellens, fresh off his first World Cup podium of the season last weekend in Nommay, France, looks to be coming into good form with a late-race charge in Nommay coming up just short of Nys and race-winner Lars Boom. The Fidea Cycling Team has three riders in addition to Wellens in the top six of the World Cup standings, Kevin Pauwels, Zdenek Stybar, and Erwin Vervecken, and all should be factors in the Zolder race.

World Champion Lars Boom sat out two rounds of the World Cup due to an infection and is shut out of the overall title race, but the powerful Dutchman has won the last two World Cup races he's entered including last weekend's victory over Nys on a muddy, slippery circuit in Nommay. Boom has definitely returned to form and looks to become the first non-Belgian to win this round of the World Cup (held previously in Hofstade) in six years. Richard Groenendaal was the last non-Belgian to win this round of the World Cup and last week's strong performance in Nommay, 31 seconds behind Boom in fifth place, suggests the evergreen Groenendaal still has some tricks up his sleeve.

Belgian Sunweb Projob teammates Klaas Vantornout and Sven Vanthourenhout also had strong showings in Nommay and can be expected to put on a show for their home crowd.

Katie Compton looks for three in a row.
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Hanka Kupfernagel continues to lead the women's World Cup ahead of the Netherland's Daphny Van Den Brand but both have come up short recently against American Katie Compton, winner of the the last two World Cups in addition to a fifth consecutive national 'cross championship earlier this month. Compton's victory last weekend in Nommay, France vaulted her from seventh to third in the World Cup standings as she looks to win her third consecutive World Cup this season and narrow the gap to Kupfernagel and Van Den Brand.

Americans Georgia Gould and Rachel Lloyd, third and eighth respectively in Nommay last weekend, can be expected to ride well in Zolder and the recent strong performances of Great Britain's Helen Wyman, France's Maryline Salvetat and the Netherland's Marianne Vos suggests another weekend of tight racing in the Elite women's field.
Walsleben has been dominant
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The U23 men will compete in their third of four World Cups this Friday and the heavy favorite will be German Philip Walsleben, undefeated in the first two rounds in Tabor and Pijnacker and victorious in other events such as the Koppenbergcross and the European championships. Belgians Kenneth Van Compernolle and Jim Aernouts finished second and third respectively to Walsleben in Pijnacker and will look to put a Belgian on the top step of the podium for the only U23 World Cup in their home nation. Frenchman Aurelien Duval, second overall in the World Cup standings, and Belgian U23 national champion Tom Meeusen, third overall in the standings, will also look to score points and potentially unseat Walsleben.

The Junior men also compete in their third of four World Cups in Zolder and the category also has a heavy favorite in Dutchman Tijmen Eising, undefeated in World Cup competition this season. Fellow Dutchman Lars Van Der Haar lies second overall in the World Cup ahead of Belgian Wietse Bosmans.

The World Cups are particularly important for the U23 and Junior men since the front of the starting grid at the world championships is determined by World Cup ranking alone. The top 16 U23 men and top eight Junior men in the World Cup standings going into the world championships will line up first on the start line. The Elite men's and women's start grid positions are determined by UCI ranking, although the World Cups are heavily weighted in the the UCI rankings encouraging those wishing to start at the front of the field to participate in as many World Cups as possible.